“Make America Great — and Canada Too”

Beth Childress
Teacher, author, and parent of adopted cat, Peeks -- read below for more :-)
Humanities

Jan 15,2018

 “Make America GREAT (And Canada too)”  

I would love to think that America can indeed become great again, but one arena that is essential to address is where we are frail. We are great, still, in some ways, but the past decade has disclosed that we have become increasingly weak in the way we treat individuals who are addicted to drugs.

  Question: How Far Must We Go? Answer: Far as the Curse Is Found

It doesn’t take much thought to identify one of the “deep, deep curses” we Americans – and Canadians are facing today. Look at any of our news sources – drug addiction and overdose-related deaths are on startling rises. Primary culprits – prescription OxyContin, Heroin, and Fentanyl – all in the same category. Opiates. (Not to discount meth and cocaine – but opiate addiction is rising faster than we can catch it)

Are we putting into place potential remedies? Yes.

Are they working? Let’s see.

Let’s take a cursory look behind three doors.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, let’s look what’s behind door #1

Do the same thing we’ve been doing for 100 years.

 Ostracize and shame those who are caught with drugs, treating them as menaces to society.  Either by court order, family intervention or other case- sensitive scenarios, send them to drug rehabilitation or hospitalization where they do receive some needed help. However,  if they relapse X number of times and continue using after receiving help, cut them off and treat them as if they are no longer family (sometimes leaving them to die in the streets).

The broken hinges of door #1:  

 Most people abuse drugs because they are lonely, guilty or feel isolated – how is sentencing them to more isolation and guilt going to help them recover?

 

Alright, ladies and gentlemen: what’s behind door #2?

Door #2: Incarcerate them. They’re criminals — not people — right?

(Several documentaries disclosed that  In recent years, Americans have spent as much as $55 billion a year on opioid abuse in criminal justice, health care and lost productivity.)

                                            So we lock them up for life, leaving our states responsible for footing the bills for both building additional prisons to house the growing number of lifetime felons and maintaining the prisoners who will remain until old age or death.  

Children are left without a father. Cycles keep recycling.

         So, the struggles that landed a person in prison (drug addiction, insufficiently treated mental illness, and limited effective employment opportunities) are “made worse” by incarceration. Time in these crowded prisons with limited rights and resources lead to financial distress as well as a loss of their own families, friends and opportunities to connect to society (See http://www.michaelshouse.com/blog/race-statistics-drug-addiction-and-prison).

 

         We see HBO documentaries and A&E Intervention show “addicts” who have relapsed dozens of time – yet help is still available to them.

         Why don’t the life-time felons (who are incarcerated for similar drug habits) get another chance for life? (They get three strikes – and they’re in the slammer for good)

This door is badly broken – it’s rotten – and it impacts children and families much more than the other two doors. 

         Where is justice? Where is compassion? Where is mercy?

Behind door #2 are wretched, cold, heartless systems that dehumanize those who need help. Break down this door, Americans – destroy it – so that these human beings under harsh sentences (and their families) have an opportunity for hope, fresh air, and recovery (see https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/08/drug-war-mass-incarceration_n_3034310.html for more information.

So, what are we left with? Door #3.

Door #3: Endorse Portugal’s policy: “Addiction is a health and a social issue, rather than a criminal one.”

Portugal was once Europe’s worst country for drug-related deaths. In 1999, approximately 100,000 Portuguese (1 % of the population) were addicted to heroin, cocaine or other hard drugs

(see http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/portugal-heroin-decriminalization/). It was very similar to Vancouver now, where city morgues are full with opiate-related deaths.

           In Lisbon, heroin was the malefactor. 

           Today, Canada’s culprit is the opioid fentanyl (which is more powerful than heroin) and carfentanil (which is 100 times more powerful than fentanyl). These drugs have caused unparalleled numbers of deaths in Canada last year, including 922 deaths in British Columbia.

           So, what has Portugal done?

           Let’s look again behind door #3.

           According to a text by Chris Brown, Portugal removed all criminal penalties for drug use.  

 90% of money is spent on health care goals with only 10% spent on police enforcement. Imprisonment was replaced by a comprehensive focus on “harm reduction, treatment and rehabilitation.” (see “How Europe’s Heroin Capital Solved It’s Overdose Crisis”).

 If one is caught with a drug, he or she is not shamed. A group of authorities examine how severe the drug problem is. They consider social, familial or psychological hindrances in his life so that they can work with the individual where he is and try to prevent him from becoming a regular user. If he’s a regular –AKA an addict – he is invited to a treatment center.

No judgement is placed, no shame is aimed– the motive is to help them (in some cases, create jobs for them) so that they can rejoin society, contribute positively as citizens and have a reason to get up in the morning: “Drug addicts who have forgotten to have fun are given a lesson on how to play again” (http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/portugal-heroin-decriminalization/). 

There are 40 facilities treating users and “addicts” free of charge.

The results are in.

 After ten years of applying this “no criminal” policy to users, the number of addicts has been halved and the number of overdose deaths have dropped to thirty a year

(see Brown, “How Europe’s Heroin Capital Solved Its Overdose Crisis” http://www.cbc.ca/news2/interactives/portugal-heroin-decriminalization/ ).

I know that no door is perfect; no system will completely wipe out drug addiction, but I’m going with door number three.

Again, I’m picking door #3: What’s your choice America? How about you, Canada?

Precious lives are on the line – they await your decision!

Note: Some of the ideas of this article are inspired by https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY9DcIMGxMs

 

 

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